Emma Allmann
Emma Allmann is a Junior Analyst for Mintel Disruptor where she studies, works with and writes about food and drink startups.

Many flavors and ingredients used in Indian beverages are comforting and functional, making them ideal for expansion into other beverage types.

Indian ingredients offer flavor and health

COVID-19 has brought consumers new schedules and priorities when it comes to the food and drinks they choose. More than two in five consumers indicate that healthfulness has become more important to them due to COVID-19, and a similar number of consumers indicate that they’d like their current diet to change to include more immune-boosting food. At the same time, a third of consumers indicate that they are sick of cooking for themselves, and that food has been a main source of comfort during COVID-19. As operators try to cater to health and indulgence demands, they should consider turning to Indian flavors and ingredients.

Ingredients like turmeric and cardamom, which are known for their antioxidant and immune-boosting properties, can be appealing additions to coffee, tea and juice drinks. Both cardamom and turmeric have increased in menu mentions from Q1 2018-21, according to Mintel Menu Insights.

Indian beverages can be more than just chai tea

The most well-known Indian beverage in the US is likely chai, which grew 10% in menu mentions from Q1 2018-21. Lassi, especially mango lassi, is gaining in popularity and has grown directionally on US menus. While drinks like Aam Panha, made from unripe mangos, salt, Jeera powder, chilis, coriander leaves and mint, and Jal Jeera, made from cumin, ginger, black pepper, mint and black salt, have yet to hit most US menus, consumers will likely be interested in some combination of the ingredients and flavors that comprise them. One in five consumers has had Indian food at home or away from home in the three months prior to August 2021. More than two in five consumers have tried new food during COVID-19 because it was a healthier choice. Spices and ingredients hailing from India are an excellent addition to teas, coffees and smoothies for a health boost and to pique consumers’ curiosity.

Indian beverages and flavors on the menu

Chocolate Chai
South Pine Cafe (Grass Valley, CA). It can be served iced and with almond milk.

Golden Latte
Bluestone Lane (chain). It includes turmeric powder, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper, ingredients good for detoxifying the body and reducing inflammation, and steamed almond milk.

Turmeric Smoothie
Caravan of Dreams (New York, NY). This drink includes turmeric, ceilon cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, clove, holy basil, galangal herbs, black pepper, vanilla and anise with coconut butter, banana and fresh coconut shake.

Lassi is an opportunity to innovate smoothies

While smoothies have declined 14% in menu mentions from Q1 2018-21, largely attributed to restaurants streamlining menus due to COVID-19, interest in healthy indulgence is on the rise. Lassi, a traditional yogurt-based drink from Northern India, can fulfill the need for healthy indulgence. The base of lassi, a type of yogurt, goes with a variety of sweet and savory spices, making it a versatile beverage that can appeal to many occasions. The most popular lassi flavor in the US is mango and as it closely mimics the flavor and texture of smoothies. Operators can take advantage of this similarity to market the beverage. For example, Bombay Wraps used National Smoothie Day as a way to promote its lassis. Consumers could tag a picture of a friend enjoying a lassi from Bombay Wraps to enter to win two free lassis.

Lassis on the menu

Salted lassi
Amma (New York, NY). Amma offers mango, masala, rose, sweet or salted lassi for $6.

Anmol (Milwaukee, WI). Anmol offers plain lassi, which is dahi yogurt and milk; sweet lassi, which is sweetened yogurt and milk; or mango lassi, which is alphonso mango pulp, sweetened yogurt and milk.

Mango lassi
Dhaba Indian Bistro (Middleton, WI) offers mango, strawberry and plain sweet lassi.